Traceroutes done right

We are going to be identifying the differences between a internal connection issue(home/work), internet provider issue(the people that provide your internet), or a website/mail provider issue(the people providing the website or mail your trying to get). We will be doing this using the traceroute option in your computer.


In order to understand what you are looking for in a traceroute, first you need to know what normal traceroute looks like. Here is a colorful traceroute example:


This looks technical, but is far from the truth. Here is the simple way to understand it.

The top area in green, is the address your trying to reach.

The red area is simply your local home/office network.

The yellow area is your internet providers area. In this example we have Cox Communications, as the provider as shown with the in the address areas.

The orange area is other networks on the internet. Neither you, your internet provider, or the place your trying to connect to control these servers. Kind of like little towns you pace between two major cities.

Again on the bottom we see green which is your destination, or in essence the place your trying to get to.

If your trace looks like this, your in good shape. But lets say it doesn’t. and you have these things: * also known as asterix in the ms area on the left. then what? Well you have some sort of problem. In the below shots we will discuss where the problem is, and that can help you find out where or who, needs to fix it!


Computer issue traceroute example:


Basically the computer can not reach the internet or the network at all. Long story made short, you probably have a loose connection or your wireless is disconnected.


Internal network failure(your home/work network) traceroute example:


Pretty much the same deal as above. You have a loose connection in your network equipment. Check your connections between your computer, router, switches, modem, and the wall. Odds are something is loose or unplugged. If all else fails unplug and re plug in every connection and restart all equipment to see if that fixes it. if not, well then you might have a bad wire, or piece of network hardware. look for anything that did not come back on, and test other computers on the network to see if they have the same issue. If they do then you may have a bad router, modem or switch. Best to have your internet provider run some checks at this point to see if there are any outages or issues with your modem at this point. If not then you may have a bad router or switch in the mix. But get the ISP to check that modem and line first!


Internal network to ISP failure traceroute example:


This is a common line issue that occurs between the home/office and the internet provider. Keep in mind it is not necessarily a literal line, but that is normally what it is called. On line number 2 you will see the famous * showing up not once, not twice, but three times during the test shown. This person is having a very serious issue with his connection to his provider in general. This is not an indication normally of a home/office network issue. As you can see this is causing errors in the trace latter on as well. Needless to say this person will need to have his internet provider come out on site most likely, assuming that all the wiring from the modem to the wall is in good order of course.


ISP Network failure traceroute example:


This is what happens when the internet providers network equipment has issues. We have blanked out the name of the provider that was having issues on that dark day, but needles to say this trace is a grim one. Line 4 tells the whole story. The equipment connection at the internet provider fully failed during the connection session, and did not recover till after the trace finished testing that connection, showing the internet provider was having an outage issue in that area at that time. The customers in that area would have experienced slow or no internet at that time.


ISP Intermittent Network failure traceroute example:


Similar to the for mentioned issue this is intermittent connectivity. As you can see there are little * all over the place. However this should not be confused as a direct internet provider issue. Even though it can be a good chunk of the time. In home/office networks this issue is most often seen when using wireless devices. If that is the case, fix your distance to the wireless device.

If this happens on a hard wired network(Ethernet), then it is a bad cable. Now if all checks out and none of the other issues are true, then it is most certainly and internet provider problem, IF it starts in their section of the trace, as mentioned above.

If your seeing this your probably having slow internet, pages not displayed email service issues and email synchronization issues.


3rd party failure traceroute example:


This is the most frustrating of all issues. 3rd party failure. Two things to note here. The internet provider for this person is not having any issues. The destination is not having any issues either. But a server between the two points is having a issue in this example. and because of that it looks like there is a service issue on one of the two providers ends to the consumer. in reality, neither the internet provider nor the destination provider can fix this. the 3rd party is the responsible party, and does not have to bow down to either companies requests to fix the issue, so the consumer in this case is just stuck till this company that they do not do business with fixes the issue.


Destination failure traceroute example:


This is a destination failure example. These can be a bit deceiving. Now if the site, or email is not working this can be a good indication the server you trying to connect to is not coming up. But it can also simply indicate that the server does not allow trace requests too. So be careful with this one. It is not so obvious. In this case the site was up, but yielded this result at the bottom, which might make a less experienced tech tell you the site was down, bad answer. But if the server does allow trace requests normally, then you should see a result here. If you do not, then the issue is the destination and they need to fix their server.


Disclaimer: The trace routes used on this page are examples, and in no way should be used as a meter for the performance of the providers network reliability. Some of the trace routes were altered for demonstration purposes to show what certain types of failures look like in the real world, and should have no impact on any brand or their reputation what so ever. This site is for educational purposes only.